Aquino: Ransom for German hostages not from Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – Three days after the Abu Sayyaf released its two German hostages, President Benigno Aquino III emphasized not one cent of the P250 million ($5.57 million) ransom money paid to the rebels came from the Office of the President.

“Well, nothing came from the Office of the President. I can assure you that. I didn’t authorize anything from the Office of the President,” Aquino told reporters on Monday, October 20.

Aquino’s statement comes after an Abu Sayyaf spokesman confirmed in a radio interview that they received the ransom as they demanded. Intelligence sources said that Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55, were released last Friday, October 17, after the ransom was paid. They told Rappler that two Germans arrived in Jolo, Sulu, Friday to bring the payment to a conduit.

Ang focus ko doon ay ‘yung Abu Sayyaf rather than the ransom. ‘Yon ang tinatrabaho ko together with the Chief of Staff, the Chief of the PNP (Philippine National Police), the SND, and the SILG (Secretary of Interior and Local Government), na masyadong matagal nang problema itong Abu Sayyaf na ito e,” he said.

(My focus is the Abu Sayyaf, rather than the ransom. That is what I’m working on together with the Chief of Staff, the Chief ofthe PNP (Philippine National Police), the SND, and the SILG (Secretary of Interior and Local Government) because this Abu Sayyaf has been a longtime problem)

“It affects our relationships with various neighboring states, na wala silang humpay at palagay ko naman dapat rin tapatan ng estado na walang humpay ‘yung pagtutugis sa kanila. Wala ng safe area; talagang kailangan walang tigil ang paghahabol sa kanila. At ‘yan ang ongoing ngayon."

(Their continued operation affects our relationships with various neighboring states, so I think it’s only right for the state to be as ceaseless when it comes to pursuing them. And that is what’s ongoing now.)

The Germans were abducted in April this year off Palawan. This month, the Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead one of them if its demands were not met – ransom and the withdrawal of German troops from the US-led war against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East.

This caused a flurry of activities in Sulu that ended in the release of the hostages Friday night.

Linked to Al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf gained notoriety after a string of high-profile abductions of foreign nationals in the country and in neighboring areas. Rappler.com